Invariably the first Indonesian island most people experience is Bali — “The Island of the Gods.” For many, it has long held mystical qualities with visions of a true paradise and dreams of a real-life Nirvana. The locals have long known the “treasure chest” they live in is one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. I must concur with them. A deep-seated cultural lifestyle has evolved over centuries, and a first-time visitor finds the day-to-day rituals to be a breath of fresh air in our modern, fast-paced lifestyle. Bali allows the visitor time to turn off and feel the heartbeat of real life.
At no time is this better felt than at Nyepi, the Balinese New Year — also known as the “Day of Silence.” On this day the whole island shuts down: TV and radio stations are silent, airports are closed, harbors are at a stand still, and nobody leaves their home — it is a day for inner reflection. There is 100% compliance, as the cultural beliefs associated with this day are rooted deeply in the Yin and Yang of Balinese culture.
To balance this day of silence, there are several days of raucous celebrations leading up to Nyepi. Men gather in large numbers to bet on cockfights, and there are endless processions of women adorned in their colorful finery, balancing stunning offerings for the gods on their heads as they weave their way down cobbled streets to the village temples.
The older men spend weeks creating huge effigies, known as Ogoh Ogoh, that are destined to be cremated as offerings to appease the gods. Photographic opportunities abound as we travel around the villages at this time of the year.
When we talk of planetary alignments and serendipity, we have been blessed to have Nyepi in 2016 coincide with the solar eclipse on March 9th. Naturally our itinerary showcases highlights of this festival, the largest and most significant in the Balinese calendar. Those joining us will gain an insight into the cultural world of this Island of the Gods.
In my final post, I’ll mention some of the additional experiences we’ll be offering TravelQuest guests who journey with us to totality in March of 2016.
Written by: Pedro O’Connor